ACCC preliminary report into tech giants could be a ‘game-changer’

The Australian media industry has commended the efforts of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), for its “thorough” review into the market power of the tech giants.

News Corp, Nine, Seven and Ten were among those who recognised the efforts of the ACCC’s preliminary Digital Platforms Inquiry report, released yesterday, which includes 11 preliminary recommendations and another nine areas where further analysis and assessment is required.

Among the recommendations were an investigation and reporting on the commercial arrangements used by digital platforms, to assess the impact they have on ranking and display of ads and news content, amendments to merger laws, advanced notice of business acquisitions, and a separate, independent review to identify unnecessary regulation for Australian publishers, broadcasters and other media businesses.

Other proposals include clarity on privacy and the collection of personal information, and the introduction of a code of practice to provide Australians with more transparency and control over how personal information is collected, used and disclosed by digital platforms. The ACCC is also looking to increase the penalties for breach of the Privacy Act to replicate the increased penalties for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.

Now the preliminary report has been released, the ACCC is seeking feedback on its recommendations and proposed matters for further analysis and assessment. The submissions are due by February 15, 2019. All media businesses and industry bodies said they will read through the report thoroughly, but praised the ACCC for taking their concerns seriously.

Facebook and Google have also responded to the preliminary report with statements noting they will continue to co-operate with the ACCC.

Michael Miller, executive chairman, News Corp Australia:

“We welcome the ACCC’s Interim report and are encouraged by its concerns regarding the digital platforms’ market power, their impact on Australian businesses and the risk of that dominant power creating competitive and consumer harm.

“The report highlights the impact the digital platforms have as unavoidable business partners and gateways between news media businesses and both consumers and advertisers.

“As global campaigners against the dominance and lack of transparency of the digital platforms, we are encouraged by the ACCC preliminary recommendation that Google and Facebook’s strong market position justifies a greater level of regulatory oversight.

“We will review the detailed report and contribute to the next stage of the ACCC process.”

Tim Worner, CEO, Seven West Media:

“We congratulate the ACCC for its comprehensive and thorough review, the first of its kind in the world.

“We are encouraged by its preliminary findings and initial recommendations, which recognise the substantial market power of Google and Facebook and the ways in which this has harmed the local media and advertising industry.

“We particularly welcome the ACCC’s recognition of the need to address regulatory imbalance between digital platforms and other Australian content and local media businesses.

“While the preliminary report is focussed on news and journalistic content, we note that Google and Facebook also have a massive impact on producers of all Australian content and we hope this preliminary report is a first step towards taking real action to address the effect they have on all Australian businesses and consumers.

“This won’t be the last time these companies are looked at, and that’s the way it should be.”

A Nine spokesperson:

“Nine welcomes the preliminary report by the ACCC into digital platforms. We are pleased the ACCC has taken this issue raised by Nine and other media organisations very seriously. The report suggests some promising and real solutions that are encouraging. We will now review the report in detail with a view to a more detailed response.”

Paul Anderson, CEO, Ten:

“It’s great that the ACCC’s preliminary report has put the practices of bigger digital-only players under the microscope and identified transparency, data use and advertising practices as key issues that need to be addressed. These issues have had a flow-on effect, affecting the perception and reputation of the media industry as a whole.

“Not only that, the speed of technology and innovation has been much quicker than the process of applying fair regulation across all media players, allowing the digital- only players to operate in an almost regulation-free environment. It’s encouraging that for companies like 10, dedicated to telling stories and gathering news that is relevant to Australians, the report acknowledges this imbalance of regulation and is looking to do something about it.

“We’re looking forward to working with the ACCC as it continues to develop its thinking toward a final report next year. It’ll be great when all media companies can start competing on a level playing field.”

Bridget Fair, CEO, Free TV:

“This preliminary report could be a game changer for Australian media businesses as well as Australian consumers. It is the first time an Australian regulator has called out the substantial market power held by Google and Facebook in the areas of online search, digital advertising and access to news content.

“The ACCC’s preliminary recommendations are a welcome first step in addressing the complex ramifications arising from the market dominance of Google and Facebook. We are particularly pleased to see that the ACCC has recognised that traditional media companies operate under heavy regulatory frameworks compared with almost none on Facebook and Google. The need for better takedown procedures for copyright infringement, lack of transparency around algorithms and the potential for Google and Facebook to favour related businesses in advertising markets have also rightly been called out as priority areas for regulatory intervention. Clearly this is a lengthy report and we will take our time to work through it constructively.

“Commercial broadcasters invest significantly in trusted news and local journalism as well as Australian entertainment, drama and sport content. The ACCC needs to ensure that the regulatory framework does not inhibit competition so that all Australians can continue to enjoy the local news and entertainment content they depend on.”

Joan Warner, CEO, Commercial Radio Australia:

“We’re pleased that the ACCC’s preliminary report has found that action is needed to address the gaping inequalities that exist between regulations applying to radio broadcasters and digital platforms.

“Commercial radio is subject to numerous regulations including, but not limited to, local content, Australian music quotas and advertising restrictions, while online platforms have few or no restrictions. For instance, broadcasters will be subject to an election advertising blackout ahead of next year’s federal election, which will result in ad dollars being diverted to digital platforms.

“We are pleased the ACCC has acknowledged there is inconsistency and that action needs to be taken to provide a fairer regulatory framework.

“Unlike radio, there is no independent third-party methodology for measuring digital impressions, which can lead to misleading claims regarding the advertising reach of digital platforms. We would like to see a robust and transparent audience measurement system for digital platforms, so that advertisers and consumers are not misled.”

John Broome, CEO, ANAA:


“We note the publication of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry preliminary report. We agree with the ACCC that many of the issues are complex and welcome the ACCC’s determination to consult with stakeholders between now and 3 June 2019 and its openness to further analysis and assessment. We will discuss the preliminary report with our members and other industry bodies and look forward to engaging with the ACCC between now and June 2019.”

Peter Miller, CEO, NewsMediaWorks

“The preliminary report is a very engaging read, especially if you are in the media and most especially if you are in the news media. Not least because the ACCC, which has sought input and received plenty, has publicly and specifically acknowledged the pivotal role played by news media publishers in providing diversity, quality (authentic) news and journalism.

“There are several recommendations in the preliminary report that go to evening up the playing landscape, for example, the strengthening of requirements around the collection and use of personal information that would be applauded by all. This has been a shambles.

“Closer scrutiny of the market power and practices of the platforms can only be a good thing for the originators of authentic and diverse news and journalism which is vital to civic society.

“NewsMediaWorks represents publishers striving in a substantially regulated sector, against competitors that operate free of many constraints. Regulatory imbalance obtains, and this is unfair at best. That said, we would need to see the fine print around the establishment of a ‘regulatory authority’ before leaping for joy.

“If the platforms stepped up to the crease with real proposals, such as a code of practice with transparent review processes that protected advertisers, consumers and the originators of authentic news content, that might reduce the proposed scope and burden of the regulator.

The response from the tech giants:

A Facebook Australia spokesperson:

“We received the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s preliminary report today, and we are currently reviewing their analysis and recommendations in more detail. As we have done over the past 12 months, we remain committed to working with the Commission as they review the contribution of all digital platforms in Australia.”

A Google spokesperson:

“The preliminary report examines important topics in relation to Australia’s changing media and advertising industry and we welcome the opportunity to contribute to the ACCC inquiry. As we put forward in our submission, we develop innovative products to the benefit of consumers, businesses and the economy, and we work closely with advertisers and publishers across Australia. We will continue to engage with the ACCC between now and the final report next year.”


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